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Interview: Festival de Trash-Mex with Armando Hernandez and Michael Aguirre

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Armando Hernandez of Trash-Mex.

The amazing talents behind and See It On 16MM are combining their forces and love for Mexican genre film to bring the three-day Festival De Trash-Mex to life this weekend!

This Mexican genre festival is showcasing six Mexican cult classics, digitally remastered with Spanish audio and English subtitles. Many of these films have not been shown on a theatrical screen in decades. Each film was handpicked by the duo behind this festival, Armando Hernández of and Michael Aguirre of See It On 16MM. These six films showcase just how amazingly strange and enjoyable Mexican cult genre cinema is. 

Hernández and Aguirre share the creation of this festival, why they picked these six films, and what they hope attendees will get out of this uniquely Mexican experience.

How did you two meet? 

Hernández: We meet at Whammy! Analog, right Michael? 

Aguirre: Yeah, we actually met through a Rendezvous and Severin Films event. They were showing Jesús Franco’s Faceless. They’re showing the new restoration of it. Our buddies from Severin and Rendezvous were all there. Armando and I met through Jon Mora. Jon was working on something with you before I met you, right?

Hernández: Yeah. He did a video interview with me.

Aguirre: Our buddy Jon does our trailers. He’s the one that just did the trailer for the festival. When Jon introduced us at Whammy!, we just hit it off. 

I really dug what Armando was doing. Honestly, I was getting bored with a lot of the typical American horror stuff. If I never see Halloween 3 or any of that stuff in my life again, I’d be totally fine. Then all of a sudden, Armando showed me all this stuff. It was like a new world of horror cinema just opened up. There’re these other movies that came out at the same time in Mexico that weren’t American movies that are honestly a lot better than a lot of the 1980s crap. That’s where it kind of kicked it off. 

For me, it was the realization of all this untouched stuff. Then working with someone that’s so passionate about it. It made me very excited for the adventures and everything else. When you can meet someone that is at equal energy with you and wanting to get stuff done, it’s hard to meet people like that. So when I met Armando, I thought, “Alright, let’s do this.”

Hernández: Yeah, I’ve been offered to collaborate or do stuff at some places before, and each time I’d said, “Okay let’s plan this out and keep in touch,” I would end up not hearing back from them. Michael hit me up one day and laid out what he wanted to do with me, I said, “Okay let’s do it.” Right away, we planned it out and made it happen.

And that’s what I like about working with Michael. He’s all for it, and he’s not bullsh*tting.

Michael Aguirre of See It On 16mm.

What was the inspiration to create the festival?

Hernández: There really was no Inspiration, per se. [Frida Executive Director] Logan was quite impressed with the Grave Robbers [1989] screening turnout. The crazy thing about it is that [Grave Robbers] was never booked for a theatrical showing before. So we were basically the first to do so, even though it was readily available. So many people came out to see it, and it was just so crazy to me. I’m still in disbelief over it.

After that, Logan talked about getting a grant and was thinking of using it to screen several Mexican movies with us. I then gave him a list of titles that we could maybe screen. And these titles I felt were truly relevant to what Trash-Mex is all about. I didn’t want it to be the “basics” [or] random, irrelevant titles.

A month or two went by, [then] Logan contacted us saying that he got the grant. I then went to Michael and asked what we should screen first. Michael said, “Let’s show Don’t Panic [Dimensions Ocultas].” I said, “Okay, but we’re going to screen it in Spanish [with English subtitles].” To me, the movie is a lot funnier in Spanish than it is in English. This will be a very different experience theatrically since a lot of people are more familiar with it in English. To have them see it in Spanish will be a really fun, unique time, I feel.

Aguirre: From what I understand, this is the first time that it’s actually going to play in Spanish audio theatrically. Everything else, even the 35 prints, [has] been in English, even the digital version. 

For Friday night, Navajeros (Dulces Navajas) is being paired with Don’t Panic. Why did you decide to pair them together?

Hernández: I’ve thought about doing a Navajeros screening before, and when Michael said he was getting Rendezvous and Severin Films to be part of the festival, the stars aligned right there. It made sense then to screen this Severin-owned title. I also thought it would be fun to first see a horror movie with teenagers then afterwards see a gritty crime-drama with teenagers in it. So equally this night will consist of two movies about teenagers getting into big trouble. One diabolical, the other in big crime.

Saturday features two El Santo wrestling films. How did you decide on that theme?

Hernández: Michael was pretty much in charge of booking. He told me that we were offered some El Santo films. We got offered ten films. So I thought, “Let’s pick two for one night.”

I picked La Venganza De Llorona because that’s my favorite El Santo movie, and to have something with actual Mexican superstition folklore in it would be awesome. Even though this movie is rather silly with the superstition folklore, it’s still a very intriguing and fun movie that people will enjoy seeing.

I know a lot of people will be going to that screening for sure. A lot of people are excited for it.

Aguirre: Friday’s more of our genre film night. It’s [geared] more towards the horror crowd. For Saturday, we didn’t want to exclude, like, families. I feel like Saturday is our more family-friendly programming. The kids could come. It’s for everybody. Sunday is pretty brutal. You don’t bring the kids.

Dr. David Wilt with actress Evangelina Elizondo.

How did you get guest speaker Dr. David Wilt to be a part of this festival?

Hernández: With the El Santo titles getting booked, I immediately thought of [getting] Dr. David Wilt to come out to speak about them. He’s a huge fan of El Santo and an expert of him since he’s done deep research on him for many years. He has dug deep into the life and career of El Santo. Dr. Wilt was even the first person ever to make a website devoted to El Santo’s work. I think it was 1995 or 1996 when he made this El Santo website.

Dr. Wilt had to be the guy to talk about these two El Santo movies we are screening. Michael and I are not big experts on these movies. Honestly, I don’t even really know much about El Santo’s movies, and I’m still trying to learn more about them. But as for Dr. Wilt, he knows about them all. He knows about the actors that came out in them, what went on in production, and stuff like that.

Dr. Wilt’s excited to come out. He has never really been to California before either. He does have plans to come out here more, but for this particular event, [it] will be his first time out here. Ironically, he’s been interviewed by The Frida Cinema before. More stars aligning here.

For Sunday’s lineup, how would you describe it?

Aguirre: So, Sunday is strictly for adults only. That first one is what’s going to be the theatrical premiere of the restoration of El Violador Infernal (The Infernal Rapist).

Hernández: That was the one that I pretty much bugged Michael to get booked right away. I knew El Violador Infernal was coming out on Blu-ray before anyone got official confirmation, and then when it was announced, I told Michael, “Get this movie booked ASAP for our festival.”

With a title like El Violador Infernal, that’s very rough, controversial stuff. At first, I was a little concerned about screening it, but then I thought, “No, we got to do it.” I wanted to have at least one title that’s a little controversial. I don’t want everything to be just lollipops, sunshine, and fun bloody scenes. I wanted something with real strong emotions and true evil as well.

Aguirre: Originally, we were throwing around the idea for the festival that we maybe make the early show a more family friendly one, then do, like, a genre exploitation when it’s late night. But Armando said, “Let’s just do it day by day.” It just seems like a better flow of everything. They’re not coming on just Friday and staying for one movie. It’s more like, “If I’m coming Friday, I’m staying for both movies.”

Who is Mario Almada? And why did you decide to pick one of his movies?

Hernández: I pretty much drew inspiration from the first screening that Michael and I did. Before Grave Robbers began, I showed a trailer of the Mario Almada movie El Fiscal de Hierro 3.

I don’t know why I picked that trailer to play, but once I played the trailer and the announcer says, “Starring Mario Almada,” people just got excited and were cheering hard and clapping. I thought, “Oh, shit! I really gotta show one of his movies here someday.”

Mario is a legendary Mexican actor. People are still fans of his work. Throughout his career, he has starred in over 300-plus movies. Even right before he died, he was still starring in films and making little cameos here and there. He is basically like a Mexican Charles Bronson. Or a Mexican John Wayne.

What has it been like to work with the California Humanities?

Aguirre: It’s awesome that we have the opportunity, especially through California Humanities, who we got the grant through. For them to put trust into us to do a weekend of this and for them to be super excited about everything to after they learn everything, it’s been awesome.

Hernández: When you look at the kind of organization they are, they pretty much give money to individuals and organizations researching America’s/California’s past with politics, culture, and music. They saw us as individuals digging deep into the Mexican/Spanish-speaking moviegoing experience from the past. Not just some weirdos wanting to show crazy movies. They truly believe in our visions/work for these movies and I’m forever grateful to them for that.

Aguirre: It’s a miracle in itself that we are given this opportunity to do something like this and for them to trust us with it. Not a lot of people are given this opportunity. It just warms my heart that people are paying attention.

It’s been a pleasant experience. I would love to possibly get another grant from them in the future or try to get a grant for another weekend or another program.

Are you going to have your Mexican lobby cards back in the lobby?

Hernández: Yeah. It will be like the first time but with completely different pieces. Maybe a few from the past will be up, but everything else is gonna be completely different.

Aguirre: Last time, it was an entire month that they carried it over. Now, this is exclusively for the three days, then we’re done.

What do you hope audiences will take away from this festival? 

Hernández: I truly hope that people gain more interest in Mexican films, especially this kind of stuff from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Now a lot of people do like Mexican films, but I notice it’s usually for the much older stuff, particularly classic horror. Those are cool movies and all, but there’s still more interesting stuff after that whole classic era. There’s so much to see still and a lot of good actors started out during this later era, and sadly, some have been completely forgotten. With the exception of Mario Almada, though.

Not a lot of people talk about Noé Murayama, who’s in El Violador Infernal. People really need to know more about him because he too was a legendary actor back then. This particular movie [El Violador Infernal] is a defining Noé Murayama movie because he plays one evil motherfucker. Noé was known as “El Villano Del Cine Mexicano” (The Villain of Mexican Cinema) for always playing a villain. A bad guy. It’s fairly obvious that he really got into the Violador role, maybe a little too much, but that’s what made him such a talented, believable villain actor. And this movie truly proves that.

Don’t miss any of this! Come through!

Festival schedule:

Friday, May 19th at 8PM

Dimensiones Ocultas (Don’t Panic) + Navajeros


Saturday, May 20th at 7PM

Santo y Mantequilla Napoles en “La Venganza De Llorona” + 

Santo y Blue Demon Vs. Drácula y El Hombre Lobo 

With guest speaker and El Santo authority Dr. David Wilt


Sunday, May 21st at 6PM

El Violador Infernal + A Secret Mario Almada Title


More info

Note: Hernández and Aguirre would like to thank, with deepest regards for their support, The California Humanities. This festival would not have been possible without their contribution. The California Humanities is a non-profit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


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